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Wednesday Jan 22, 2020

Nigel Owens strikes chord with call for change in substitutions

Referee Nigel Owens’ suggestion to limit the number of substitutions in a match has proven to be a popular change to the laws amongst the rugby world.

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Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Welshman posited the idea that fewer substitutions would encourage smaller players that are capable of playing 80 minutes.

World Rugby is always seeking to make the game safer, particularly in reducing head injuries and concussions, and a number of law amendments have been implemented to achieve this.

This suggestion by Owens is one that has been discussed over the years by players, fans and those that can affect such changes, and is one that does not directly change the laws of the game in open play.

However, over the past decades, rugby has progressively gone the other way, increasing the number of permitted substitutions. There may not be a correlation, but the average weight of players has significantly increased as well.

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With teams currently allowed to make eight substitutions, it means that half the starting XV are unlikely to play the entirety of the match. As a result, the belief is that this leads to bigger players and therefore bigger collisions throughout a match.

Moreover, it has also been highlighted that more substitutions mean that there are more encounters between fresh players and those that are fatigued, which can also lead to more injuries.

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This potential change to the laws is not universally supported, however, as some feel that the changes in size and strength of the players will be negligible, and worse still, the more tired they become the more sloppy their technique will be, which can also cause injuries.

Just like the new 50:22 law that is being trialed in various parts of the world, it is hard to judge whether any ideas will be successful unless they are tried.

There are other areas of the game which could be also addressed, chiefly regarding rucking, but Owens has touched upon something which seems to already have a lot of support.

Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

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